Evolution of the Prison System in US
Changes in the US the prison system
Stanko, Gillespie & Crews (2004) observe that the US prison system has evolved so much since the institution was established immediately after independence. In 1860s, the prison system experienced massive overcrowding. During the same time, a research done on the state prisons revealed that none was seeking reformation of inmates as the primary goal. To address these two factors, an educational program was introduced. Prisoners who did well in the program would be released early. In early 1900s, a probation system was introduced while in 1913, recreation and entertainment was introduced in the prisons. Bosworth (2002) points out that In 1950s, riots in prisons due to poor hygiene, guard brutality, poor food quality as well as poor facilities led to recognition of those demands as rights by courts. In addition, the American Prison Association changed to American Correctional association with a focus on rehabilitative processes. Last year, various organizations formed a partnership to combat over-criminalization as well as over-incarceration of individuals from minority and low-income communities.
Changes that have benefited the US prison system
Although much needs to be done to the prison system, most of the changes in the past have positively transformed the system. For instance, changes in state and federal sentencing laws on various offenses like drug abuse have led to reduction of overcrowding in the cells. States have also softened policies on parole such that re-sentencing is no-longer the automatic punishment for violation of parole. Improvement of facilities has also created an enabling environment for prisoners to learn life skills that help them once out of the prison (Edge, 2009).
Additional changes I would implement
The mission of the US prison system needs to change from governing prisoners via threats of harsher punishments to encourage prisoners to work towards earning their freedom via incentive programs (Edge, 2009).). To achieve this, I would expand parole eligibility and solve delays in parole processing. This will reduce overcrowding of prisons and give helpful skills to prisoners. I would also ensure post- release supervision for all offenders. This is necessary to reduce recidivism and to ensure that adequate assistance is given to offenders after they are released.
Stanko, S., Gillespie, W., & Crews, G. A. (2004). Living in prison: A history of the correctional system with an insider’s view. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
Bosworth, M. (2002). The U.S. federal prison system. Thousand Oaks, Calif. [u.a.: Sage Publ.
Edge, L. B. (2009). Locked up: A history of the U.S. prison system. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books.
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